DETROIT — Less than two years ago, WWE completely sold out Joe Louis Arena for the Royal Rumble.
Tuesday’s taping of Smackdown, NXT and Superstars taping was a vast contrast from that January night, as with the exception of a few random rows, the entire upper bowl was tarped off and scattered seats remained unfilled throughout the lower bowl and floor.
Despite the lower crowd numbers, those who did attend Tuesday’s show were extremely enthusiastic about what they saw throughout the three hour taping.
After a dark match that saw Tyler Reks defeat Trent Barreta, The show opened with the taping of NXT. Those who watched the televised version know that Michael Cole was in quite the mood. This was evident during his walkout when he did the balance beam set up for the NXT obstacle course and played to the crowd, which only booed him more. The crowd instantly was brought into the taping with the appearance of the hated Vickie Guerrero who continues to have what has best been described as “nuclear heat.” The crowd was booing her so loudly that some fans near the stage couldn’t even hear what she was saying.
The post-match celebration of the match between Dolph Ziggler/Kaitlyn and Primo/AJ had to be re-taped. Following a break in the action, Ziggler, Kaitlyn and Guerrero made their way back to the ring. Tony Chimel announced them again as the winners and they celebrated as Guerrero seethed. This was seamlessly edited into the television broadcast.
The crowd somewhat tapered off for NXT from there, although it was brought alive by rookie diva Jamie’s interactive knock-knock joke. The crowd deemed her the winner of the contest.
The audience gleefully booed Cole out of the building when he announced he was quitting NXT.
The one and only Superstars match taped Tuesday was between MVP and Luke Gallows. MVP was very popular, even performing a rap before the match.
Smackdown started with an edition of The Peep Show with Christian. He had a great dynamic with his guest, Alberto Del Rio, who was not well liked at all, especially as his personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez was doing his introduction.
The Hart Dynasty made their return to Smackdown for the first time in quite a while, facing the team of Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre. The Harts received one of the night’s biggest reactions when their music hit. This was a long match worth watching on television.
The show continued with a Kofi Kingston promo prior to his match with Jack Swagger. This was another long match, one that saw a dueling chant, although the small pro-Swagger faction of the crowd was easily drowned out by the much louder pro-Kingston chanters, mainly comprised of the children in the audience. The crowd was very much into Kingston.
The next match saw Lay-Cool (with Kaval) battle Kelly Kelly and Rosa Mendes. In a backstage segment following the match, Lay-Cool decided which of them it would be to defend the Women’s Championship in the unification match with Melina at Night of Champions.
Alberto Del Rio made his second appearance of the night as he came down to be on commentary for the match between Christian and CM Punk. In a funny moment prior to the match, Punk viciously threw his shirt at Matt Striker at the announce desk. Striker calmly folded it and put it under the table.
This was another long match, certainly one worth watching. The vocal heel minority in the crowd tried to drum up support for the Straight Edge Savior, but it was not to be.
In the main event segment, World Heavyweight Champion Kane let everybody know if he was going to accept the Undertaker’s request that their Night of Champions title match be no holds barred. The Dead Man made an appearance here and was the most popular of anybody on the night. Undertaker has more chants and more support for him than anybody else.
Once Smackdown went off the air, Kane acknowledged that the advertised main event was a World Heavyweight Championship match between himself and the Undertaker. Kane personally did the ring introductions for this and was taking it to his brother before the Undertaker cut him off and hit a choke slam. Both men were down with Taker rising at the count of eight. He called for the Tombstone, which got a huge reaction, but Kane saw it coming as he stood up and bailed out of the ring. The referee began counting Kane out. He teased reentering the ring at nine but backed away, giving Undertaker the win by count out.
Following the match, the Undertaker struck his pose in the centre of the ring and then walked up the ramp, throwing his trademark fist in the air before continuing to the back.
Those in attendance saw a good show Tuesday night, but WWE has to be concerned with the declining attendance in what has traditionally been a strong market for them. I’ve been to many WWE shows at Joe Louis Arena and cannot remember one being as poorly attended as this. It could be that it was a Smackdown taping and Smackdown isn’t a hot show, or it could be declining interest in the product. Whatever the case, it’s troubling either way.